Friday, February 22, 2019

My Financial Independence Manifesto

If you are in any way following the personal finance community, then you have likely heard about the alt-FI Manifesto that was recently published on someone’s blog and then featured on Rockstar Finance.  (I’m not going to link to it here, as I don’t personally want to give it any more traffic. You can certainly Google it if you really want to read it, or alternatively you can read Done by Forty’s excellent summary and interpretation of it on Twitter.). In it, the writer goes into great detail about how he feels the world should work from a financial perspective.  At its essence, I think it distils down to the following philosophy:

“I got mine. Fuck everyone else.”

I’m not going to spend a moment of time going through the arguments in the manifesto, as I’m sure other bloggers will do a much better job of that in the coming days.  It’s also the middle of my last night in Mexico, and I really should be sleeping while the waves crash loudly outside my window rather than hastily writing an insomnia-driven blog post on my iPhone.  What I am going to do instead is state very briefly how I would like to see the world work.

In the simplest of terms, I think the ideal society cares for all of its members.  It doesn’t take the dog-eat-dog, winner takes all approach that characterizes the current political and economic culture in the United States.  Instead, it recognizes the humanity and value of every member of society, and it attempts to create systems and structures that benefit every member of that society.

I’m always happy to debate what that looks like.  I’m happy to talk about welfare versus universal basic income, or about how best to respond to addiction, or about strategies for reducing homelessness.  I will not, however, ever debate the humanity of the most marginalized members of our society.  I will never debate my belief that those of us who have more have at least some obligation to those of us who have less.  That is the essence of my financial independence manifesto.

I also want to take a brief moment to address the issue of “tribalism” that was raised in the original  manifesto.  The manifesto proposes that we should stop dividing ourselves into groups and learn to not see things such as race, gender, sexuality, etc.  I will admit that, as a queer woman, there was a time when I believed this very thing with respect to my sexuality.  I thought that the only difference between being queer and being straight was that my partner’s genitals matched my own, and as a result, I didn’t think that I needed to specifically have queer friends or be part of the queer community.

Two things fundamentally changed this belief for me.  The first was travelling with my partner of three years through the Middle East.  For two weeks, we had to be constantly vigilant to not touch each other in public or say anything that would give us away, knowing that our sexuality and our relationship made us unsafe.  When she introduced me to people with whom she had lived and worked, people who are like family to her, she had to introduce me as her roommate instead of her partner.  It’s hard for me to describe how painful it was to essentially be erased from the life story of the person who was most important to me.  That is something that most straight people don’t ever have to experience.

The second thing was dating a woman who is a very active member of the local queer community.  When we dated, I suddenly found myself hanging out with other queer women and attending community events that I had never even heard of.  And while I love my straight friends dearly, I found something in the queer women that I had never gotten from my straight friends.  Understanding.  Recognition.  Commonality of experience.  When I talked to them about coming out, or travelling to a country where my sexuality is illegal, or my lifelong hatred of wearing dresses, I didn’t need to explain myself.  They had been there, and they simply understood.

So no, I don’t think we can simply ignore the things that make us different.  On a personal level, there is value in connecting with people who share and understand your experiences.  On a broader societal level, recognizing these differences is essential to dismantling the discriminatory systems that marginalize people who are not white, heterosexual, cis-gender, able-bodied men.

It’s still the middle of the night, and I am tired.  Partly because I should be sleeping, but mostly because I am tired of selfish, ignorant people continuing to speak from a position of hatred.  And I’m tired of organizations like Rockstar Finance giving these people a platform.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Why Are People Assholes? (A Mostly Rhetorical Question)

One of my friends is grieving.  She's going through a major loss, and although she is very guarded with her emotions, I can see that she is hurting deeply.  I wish there were something I could do to take the pain away, but as is usually the case, all I can offer is a sympathetic ear, words of compassion, and an endless supply of hugs.  Nothing, and everything.

I hate when people suffer.  I've dedicated my working life to doing what I can to minimize suffering, and I try in all my interactions with people to be kind.  To not add anything further to the burdens that people already carry.  So when I see people acting cruelly, I am overwhelmed by the question "why?".  Why do billionaires underpay their employees and not allow them bathroom breaks?  Why do teenagers beat up homeless people?  Why do jerks go onto Twitter and attack perfectly wonderful personal finance bloggers about their decisions to buy new cars?

Is it just a failure of empathy?  A failure to see the humanity of the other person and give a shit about what they're going through?  And, if it is, how do people get so broken that they don't care about the pain they cause others?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What it is Like to Meditate

When I started to meditate, I arrogantly thought that I would be good at it.  I'm generally pretty good at sitting still, and I can stare off into space for hours, so I figured I'd be a natural. 

Nope.

Nope nope nope nope nope.

My monkey mind is as active as anyone else's.  From the moment I plunk my ass down on my meditation cushion at way-too-early o'clock, my mind starts wandering to anything other than my breath.

Should I put dried cherries or dried blueberries in my oatmeal today?  I had dried cherries yesterday, but they are my favourite, so maybe two days in a row is okay.

Should I go to yoga at 5:30 or 6:45?  I like the 6:45 instructor better, but I'm always hangry because I have to wait to eat supper.

I wonder if next year's conference is going to be in Barcelona.  I've never been to Spain.  I could eat tapas.  Mmmmm.  Tapas.  Maybe I should go to the tapas restaurant this weekend and have patatas bravas.

And on and on.  No matter how many times I bring my attention back to the in and out of my breath, it inevitably wanders back away.  Over and over again.

Which, for a perfectionist, is just a little annoying.  Some days I can sit with the distraction, watching my thoughts wander away and patiently bringing them back.  Other days I scream in my head "OMFG what the fuck is wrong with you it's just sitting and breathing it's not hard stop thinking about eating Hagen Daas when you get home from work tonight!"

The only reason I've been able to stick with it for over six months (six months!) is because I am a compulsive reader, and every single thing I've ever read about meditation has said that this is okay.  This is normal.  The wandering and returning isn't failing - it is the practice.

But I still find it hard to let go of the idea that someday I'll figure it out and every meditation will be bliss.  A few weeks ago, I went to a group meditation, and I meditated for a solid 45 minutes.  And it was awesome!  I have never in my life sat so peacefully and been so focused on my breathing.  I thought I had done it!

And then the next morning, on my cushion, my brain said "Don't forget to take your lunch to work today because it's the pasta sauce you really love and you'll be really sad if you leave it on the counter and you have a busy morning clinic and the pasta sauce will be good after clinic as long as you don't fuck up and do something stupid in clinic, in which case you'll be crying into your pasta sauce and it will be ruined forever and you'll need to find a new favourite recipe which is really hard to find so you'll probably be miserable until you die alone and without good pasta."

 So yeah.  This is me on meditation. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Words

In March of last year, about 5 months after my major breakup, I decided that I was ready to start dating again.  I had gotten past my initial euphoria at leaving a bad relationship, allowed myself to grieve the good parts, and reached the point where I felt okay with being single.  I was ready.

As I was getting back into dating, I distinctly remember thinking about how good a mental space I was in.  I felt like I had worked through a lot of my old demons (anxiety, self doubt) and kind of figured things out.  I understood shit.  I can even remember, in one particularly arrogant moment, thinking that I had learned most of the big things in life and really didn't have that much more to learn.

(Cue deep laughter from the universe.)

In my last post of an unsuccessful NaBloPoMo, I wrote somewhat glibly about starting to meditate, completely diminishing the magnitude of the impact it has had on me.  On one level, it has done what I expected it to:  made me appreciate the present moment more, helped lower anxiety, and improved my always inconsistent sleep.  What I completely didn't expect was the deeper changes it has brought about*.

Through meditation, I am learning to see everything more clearly.  I am getting more comfortable with difficult things and learning to sit with them so that I can understand them better.  Habits, thought patterns, relationships.  The last half of this year feels like a veritable explosion of self understanding and personal change.  Far more has happened than I can possibly capture in a single New Year's post.

It became popular a few years ago to choose a word for the year as a way of setting an intention, and while I didn't do it at the beginning of 2018, in retrospect, my word for the year was clearly growth.

And what for 2019?  Mostly, I want to keep going on the path that I'm already on.  I want to remain in the present moment, enjoying it when I can and learning from it when I can't. 

2019 is going to be all about mindfulness.

*This whole post feels so hokey, and if I'd read someone else's version of it a year ago, I'm sure I would have rolled my eyes and accused the writer of having drunk the magical kombucha. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

How I Started to Meditate

I've been thinking about meditating for years.

Although I don't remember specifically, I suspect that I first heard about mindfulness meditation sometime during my medical training.  It was probably during a session on "resiliency" or "work-life balance", and I was probably cursing the fact that I had to sit through an hour of stupid talks before I could get back to the ward to finish my work and go home.  I probably laughed at the idea of using my precious free time to sit on a cushion and focus on my breath.

But it kept coming up.  In talks, in articles, from friends and co-workers.  And always with an emphasis on all the things it has been shown to help with:  depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, and pretty much every other bad thing that people struggle with.  So I read a book, which I loved.  And went to one class, which I hated so much I practically ran to the instructor to get a refund at the end of it.  And I thought often about doing it.  But never did.

(This is the point at which I would love to insert something profound about a life-altering experience that motivated me to start meditating.  In reality?  (Rosemary is going to laugh at this.)  It was a girl.)

I met a woman online who is super into yoga - does yoga at least once a day, reads books about yoga, goes on yoga retreats, and has a yoga tattoo, into yoga.  And...she was really cute.  And while I couldn't become an expert in yoga in the week between when we met online and when we met in person, I had enough knowledge about meditation that I felt I could claim some proficiency in it after a week.  And meditation is basically yoga without all the stretching, right?  So I started getting up 15 minutes early every morning to plunk myself down on that cushion and focus on my breath.

Sadly, the date was not the beginning of a great romance that I have failed to talk about here (Despite my abysmal blogging record recently, I would have blogged about something that exciting.).  But the meditation stuck.  From day one, I felt a little less anxious, and a little less stressed.  I slept a little better.  In exchange for getting up 15 minutes earlier, I really do feel 10% happier.

Apparently online dating can pay off.  

Friday, November 2, 2018

This May Be a Month of Placeholder Posts

It is 11:33, and I suddenly remembered this blog and NaBloPoMo.  So...I'm sorry.  This is not going to be a particularly inspired post.  It is, in fact, going to just be a list (someone said that lists were completely okay).  I will try to do better.

Things I May Write About in the Next 28 Days:
-  Meditation
-  What to do when all your friends have babies, but you're single and childless
-  Dating (For this post, I will need a good gif of someone moaning while they rip all the skin off their face)
-  Something money-related, given that I kind of claim to be a Personal Finance blogger?
-  Uhhhh...photos of my cats?

This could be a long month.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

If Creampuff Can Do It

It's NaBloPoMo, one of the worst-named events ever, which means that Rosemary at Creampuff Revolution is blogging again!

I haven't blogged in almost two months.  Not sure why...maybe because meditation is making me less angsty, and I am less in need of a public space to vent?  Maybe I'm just lazy?  (Bets on the latter.)

I don't know if I will NaBloPoMo this year, but the day is almost over, so I'm putting this here in case I decide to commit to it.  If you're still reading my blog and I decide to do it, what do you want me to write about?